A client recently asked about alternatives to VS Express for scripting Ruby jobs. I did a search on “VB.net free IDE” and got to here:


From the discussion, SharpDevelop seemed the best candidate, available from


We want version 4.4 since version 5 at present is only C#. The download I got is


which I ran in the usual way for a Windows installation.

The first good thing is that all existing Ruby VSX projects (*.sln files, where ‘sln’ is MS-speak for ‘solution’, otherwise known as a ‘program’) open seamlessly:

An opened project looks like

The project source modules and references are on the left.

Everything works, so this is a viable alternative. Some pros and cons:


  • A hugely smaller disk footprint than Visual Studio Express/Community/Full.
  • Installs in a couple of minutes from a single MSI (versus up to an hour or more for VS and which must have a good internet connection to complete successfully).
  • Opens almost instantly.
  • Much more comprehensive in-line help display (sourced from the Ruby library files).


  • I prefer the VS editor – more intuitive indenting in copy/paste, less manual fiddling to restore whitespace vertical alignment.
  • No as-you-type compilation, so if you make a syntax boo boo, you don’t get the wriggly underline at the error until execution time.
  • Is 32 bit only, although since the communication with Ruby 64 bit is by COM, that has few if any practical consequences. All my tests above use Ruby 64 bit.
  • The debugger is not as good, for example Public declarations in another module seem not to be accessible for a Watch.

You can make SharpDevelop the default IDE from Ruby | Scripting | Open Default VSX.sln by changing the file association for *.sln in Windows Control Panel | Default Programs | Set Associations:

If it already says SharpDevelop, do nothing. If a Visual Studio version, then click Change Program, then Browse, then navigate to

C:\Program Files (x86)SharpDevelop4.4binSharpDevelop.exe

Don’t be confused by mention of ‘Ruby’ in the SharpDevelop GUI and documentation. The Ruby internet scripting language is intended, see


Somewhat unfortunately for us, the Ruby language became popular shortly after RCS commenced operations.

My conclusion: certainly usable, better in-line help, and a lot less fuss than Visual Studio. Debugging is sufficient, but has some limitations.



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